Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE STRUGGLE OVER THE LAND ACT IN IRELAND, 1881

The display of power of mind and strength of character makes a great impression on an assembly even if its temper from day to day is inflamed and embittered by violent passions. "As week after week and month after month passed by," said the Annual Register, "the spectacle of Mr. Gladstone, almost single-handed, defending each line of every clause of his Bil, filled friends and opponents alike with admiration of his vast and versatile genius." Gladstone, so sensitive to criticism and ill will, was not unconscious of this admiration or ungrateful for it. On the night of July 29, 1881, when his Bill had passed its third reading in the House of Commons, he wrote in his diary, "The Members of Parliament and the whole world have behaved to me on the occasion of this Bill with extravagant generosity. God grant modesty to me, and His blessing to the measure." If he had foreseen the future he would perhaps have changed the form of his prayer. Of modesty he had as much as any man can combine with a sense of power. What he lacked and what he needed in the next few months was patience; the patience of Cornewall Lewis who had said of himself, in contrast to Gladstone, that in the excitement of controversy, he was as cool as a fish.

Patience was needed before everything else, for the fortunes of Gladstone's Irish policy at this moment turned largely on temper. The Parnell party had two grievances against the Government; the first that the Government had passed an Act which deprived Irishmen of the fundamental guarantees of liberty that Englishmen possessed.1 This

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1
On August 1, Parnell was suspended for the rest of the session for persisting in demanding a day to discuss the administration of the Act.

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